As an automotive enthusiast and son of an auto shop teacher, cars have been a large part of my life. My first job was at an auto parts store, and as far back as I can remember my family was working on cars. My father has had 50+ over the years, I need to get that list together.
Anyway, here are photos of all of my cars in the order that I had them with some notes.
During the Summer of 1991 we picked a 1984 Chrysler LeBaron that needed work. The passenger side was hit, and well – it was gold. I was still suitably thrilled, despite being too young to drive it.
By the time I was old enough to drive it, a few birthdays and holidays had passed, and the car was all tuned up. My father painted it black in his shop, and we installed a new convertible top as well. Here’s a shot of it finished (and me dressed up for some event.)
In the early 90’s I spent a few years racing personal watercraft on the IJSBA tour. We had an old 1984 Subaru GL wagon in the family that wasn’t being used, so over the course of a weekend my father and a family friend painted it to make it a flashy tow vehicle.
Yep, the wheels are painted too! I drove this around part-time in my senior year of high school and freshman year of college. This was the first manual trans I drove, as well as the first AWD car I had.
While I was at Rutgers we picked up a 1984 Volvo 240DL wagon, and that became my daily driver – and the third 1984 car I’d driven regularly.
It’s got a custom made fork-mount bike rack on the roof that my father whipped up. I drove this for a few years, and had lots of adventures in it. It never had rear hubcaps while I owned it.
My first summer out of college had me doing IT consulting, and it involved a lot of travel. The Volvo only lasted a week or two of hard commuting before going up in a cloud of smoke. Despite the fact that my father fixed it, it was time for something I could pour some real miles into. The Volvo went to my cousin and when it eventually died, it was cut up as part of an EMT training event.
The year was 1998 and I needed a car fast over 4th of July weekend. I picked up a shiny new 1998 Plymouth Breeze, one of the JA-platform ‘Cloud Cars’ of the era (Stratus / Cirrus / Breeze.) This was early times for digital cameras, and the quality shows. The breeze was flawless though and I drove it until 2000 and put 80k miles on it.
The Breeze held up well but had lots of miles, and I was looking for something more fun. In 2001, Volkswagen introduced a Jetta Wolfsburg with a 1.8T motor, and I promply snatched one up. The Breeze went to my folks, where my mother drove it for another 5 years or so.
Galactic Blue, BBS wheels, 5 speed, and tons of modifications that I’ve written up detailed documentation on. Sometime in 2001 after I’d gotten I heard some friends talk about ‘Autocross’ and decided to take part in a few events with the Jetta, my only car at the time. We borrowed a helmet from someone, printed up some numbers on magnets, and went to the races.
My father co-drove, and we did well. It was quickly obvious that it was rough on the car, and that a Jetta with my modifications was wildly outclassed. A plan was hatched. Or ‘hot-hatched’, if you’re a car guy.
After pouring over past SCCA results and consulting our limited budget, we picked up a 1984 GTI for a few hundred dollars. Bone stock and not in show condition, it would be a great platform to start from. We did tons of work to this one and built it up into a formidable racer.
We won our SCCA class locally (F Street Prepared) as well as our class at NASA Northeast, and I think we won our class at Waterfest that year as well. The following winter there was a rule change in NASA that was going to put us into a class that wasn’t a good fit, so we went back to the books, and back to 1984.
The GTI was put back to mostly stock and sold to someone on VWVortex, and we picked up a 1984 Rabbit L for $250. We swapped all of our expensive bits into this one, and because it was only a 1.7L motor, it was still in our preferred class. We ran it for an event or two in this ‘patchwork’ trim, a black fender, white body, and burgundy hatch. It was just to make sure it would be able to compete. Once we knew, then the real work started.
The rabbit got gutted, got a roll cage, lexan windows, metal Kirkey seats, and a whole host of additional upgrades. This photo was from a track day at Pocono raceway, with just street tires on it temporarily since we towed it out. We ran this for a few seasons, and dominated E-Prepared in SCCA and the G class with NASA locally. We won the Tri-State Championship, Waterfest, and a whole host of other events. Fourty-four wins out of fifty events or something.
At this point I was still daily driving the Jetta, but it was well over 100k miles already. Time for something new. I went to the VW dealer and picked up the second new MKV GTI on the lot – my buddy Joe got the first.
2006 GTI – Two liter turbo, 6 speed manual, and BBS wheels again. This generation of GTI had the plaid seats, xenon headlights with washers, and a few other niceties — some of which got decontented the following years. This car also got tons of detailed modification writeups as time went on. I drove this until Fall 2009.
For 2010, Subaru revamped the Legacy and while it killed off some of the things that enthusiasts loved about it, the overall package became a lot more popular. I got one in the Fall of 2009.
And even the Subaru got modded, at least a little. It’s huge compared to the GTI, but it is AWD and gets good mileage. It’s a great highway cruiser and we’ve done some fairly long drives in it. I drove this for most of the time where Amy and I were split between two states, so the miles added up quickly. We still have the Legacy, at least for now.
Fall 2011 and we’re in the third state in the last 26 months. Our commutes are both short, and Amy’s 2003 Civic has 160k miles on it. We decide to sell the Civic and get her a new Impreza, but they’re not out yet. I picked up this from a friend:
2003 Mini Cooper S, with lots of modifications. It’s great for my 4 mile/day commute and zipping around town. It’s a 6 speed, has all the options available, and runs great. I don’t have any plans for getting rid of it any time soon. For now.
Well, that didn’t last long. I kept the Mini for 9 months but ended up doing a lot of repair work on it. Between spending a lot of time and money on parts and downtime, Amy can’t drive a stick – so off it goes. The new ride? 2012 Chevy Volt:
This is probably the most technically advanced car on the road today. From the gauges / instrumentation to all of the engine management and remote monitoring the thing really is a rolling technology demo. It also feels a bit like the Jetsons. No new cars for a while…
Fast forward almost three years! The Volt lease ended and we turned it in with around 18,000 miles. It was flawless, and we only put 7-8 tanks of gas in it the whole time; it didn’t even make it to the first oil change! Unfortunately it’s small in the back seat, and with our new baby boy Rob, we needed more room. The Volt got turned in, and we got a RAV4 for Amy to drive, and I went back to the Subaru.
Our Legacy was a good car, but in it’s lifetime it had three blown tires due to potholes – a problem I never had in any other car. And unfortunately since it’s AWD, you really have to replace the tires in sets of 4 to avoid causing trouble. After 78k miles and 6 years and 4 sets of tires – it needed some maintenance and was starting to show some age.
So it’s gone! The new ride is a 2015 Toyota Prius in the ‘five’ trim:
It’s a great car so far, easily getting 48-52 mpg on most rides. It’s got almost every option – we’re only missing the solar sunroof and the “advanced tech” package, which gets you radar cruise control and auto-parking. Back in a hybrid!